The United States is now operating at four airports to ferry aid and relief supplies to quake-devastated Haiti, a senior US military commander said Thursday.
In addition to the Caribbean nation’s main port of entry, Port-au-Prince airport, US forces were also now at work at airports in the coastal city of Jacmel.
They were also operating in the neighboring Dominican Republic at San Isidro and Barahona, US Southern Command chief General Douglas Fraser said.
Around 11,000 US military personnel are currently controlling the operations both on the ground and offshore aboard US Navy and Coast Guard vessels, and another 4,000 US troops are expected to arrive in the coming days.
The Americans’ controlling of the aid operations has raised tensions with some countries. Bolivia and Venezuela have criticized its heavy presence and France earlier expressed annoyance after aid planes were delayed from landing.
French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet called on the United Nations to clarify the US role in Haiti, saying the priority was “helping Haiti, not occupying Haiti.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has complained that five of its planes carrying a total of 85 tons of medical and relief supplies have been diverted from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Republic since January 14, although one of its planes was allowed to land this week.
On Thursday, the Haitian president said that “Haiti is not under guardianship” of other countries as they help nurse and feed the victims of last week’s huge quake.
Also, Haiti’s Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told RTL radio in Port-au-Prince: “The Americans are here at our request, they are here purely to help us with our humanitarian and security needs.”
However, many commentators see in that US is not welcomed in Haiti. They confirm that US seeks to re-occupy Haiti. The U.S. occupied Haiti until 1934.
American troops returned in 1994, and now, the US Marines are back in Haiti for the same mission but under a different title: to support Haiti relief.
Phyllis Bennis said in Huffington post that “the reality is, on the ground, U.S. military forces take charge, as the United Nations is pushed aside.”
Search teams in Haiti on Thursday refused to abandon hope of finding more survivors of the quake after two children were pulled alive from the rubble in 24 hours.
More than eight days after the devastating tremor, which killed at least 75,000 and left a million homeless, rescuers said they could not rule out the possibility of some victims still being alive under the debris.
And they said the powerful 6.1 aftershock that shook Haiti on Wednesday could have dislodged masonry giving fresh opportunities to free any last remaining survivors.
“The aftershock could have made the structures subside, but it might have also freed people trapped between two pieces of concrete,” said French firefighter Gilles Perroux.
As the focus of aid efforts turned to the vast task of providing food, water, medicine and shelter to an increasingly desperate population, rescuers said chances of survival were slim but not impossible.
Also on Thursday, Haiti officials said they were relocating thousands of homeless earthquake victims to hastily erected villages designed to each hold at least 10,000 people.
“The government has made available to people free transportation. A large operation is taking place: we’re in the process of relocating homeless people,” said Haitian Interior Minister Paul Antoine Bien-Aime.
Officials said the government was paying for at least 34 buses to take victims to the south and north of the country from the capital Port-au-Prince, which was largely destroyed in a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.